Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Exploring the contours of the Self

Think of yourself as a place. No, let me rephrase that.

Think of your Self as a place. What sort of place are you? Are you a street? A meadow? A canyon carved by ancient rivers? How's the weather there?

Think of your Self as an event. What sort of event are you? Are you birthday party? Are you a church service? Are you a star a-borning?

Link of your Self as light. Are you a particle or a wave?

There's a quote from a novel that's been stuck in my head for decades. It's from "Illusions", by Richard Bach. One character says to another, "Faith? It takes zero faith. What it takes is Imagination."

Now of course I happen to think it (the living of an authentic life) takes faith, but it also takes imagination. Faith without imagination is blind. It's deaf and dumb, too, as without the ability to imagine, to see beyond (or deeper into) the here and now, we're just waiting to be told what to do. Or who to be.

The limits of who we are, what we're capable of, are constructs of our imaginations. This doesn't mean to imply that they aren't real to us, but it does imply that if we create them we can change them.

We create our selves from moment to moment. Our thoughts are laid like bricks on the framework of our beliefs. We're seemingly solid, set into a place and time alongside others like ourselves. Yet we feel, sense, that there is more to us. We experience emotions, longings, loves and hates, and these, to follow our analogy, seem as fleeting as the weather in some ways, and yet almost more real than the solid selves we seek to be.

In experience, we are multifaceted. There are parts of our selves that are as whimsical as the breeze, parts as solid as the ancient canyons. One moment we reflect the light the comes to us from outside our selves, another we glow with our own inner light. Our Selves, then, are made up of all these other selves.

Most of us feel as though our selves, our inner facets if you will, conflict. The body self, the emotional self, the logical self (and any others you may feel you have or are) seem to battle it out with one or another coming out on top, very often the "wrong" one, at that. We're often afraid of what we've been taught to call the subconscious, taught that it is needy, petulant, not to be trusted and difficult to control. But this is a construct, something we have been taught to believe about our selves. This is a false division, self from Self, as are all ideas of compartmentalization; the divisions themselves are the problem.

If think of myself - my Self - as a meadow, for example, can the soil and the grasses exist independently? No. Can the wild bees exist without the flowers? Of course not. It is the same within us, these 'parts' we've been taught to see as separate are not; they exist because of one another and must be seen that way, treated as such.

As a wildcrafter, I know that everything in a meadow is intrinsic to the whole. If there is an over abundance of one plant species it indicates a lack somewhere else. In the meadow, or any other eco-system, or in the self, diversity and adaptability are the keys to harmony. As a wildcrafter I also know that all eco-systems are self-regulating. Where the soil surface 'lacks' nutrients, that's an opportunity; the plant with the deep roots appears; it lives, it dies, the nutrients from its decay go back to the soil, on the surface. Another plant moves in, lives, dies and nourishes the soil for the next.

My imaginary meadow is a construct. I imagine my Self as a meadow and play with the image. Which selves grow where? Are they well nourished? What would it take for them to thrive here? If this part of me 'dies', how will it nourish the rest?

If we can be playful, we can use our imaginations to see beyond (or deeper into) the here and now. The relationships between the inner facets of our being change, the divisions shift or even disappear. What seemed chaotic and threatening may show itself as necessary, or what appears to be necessary can be allowed to 'go back to the soil' and be used in another way.

So 'the human condition' is not static, it's ever-changing, as is anything in nature. Imagination is a necessity, then, both to understand the Self and to create an authentic life.

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